Before making the case for why we should study theology, we should answer the question, “What is theology?” It’s made up of two words: Theos and logia, which subsequently means “God and word.” It literally means “a word about God.” Simply stated, theology is the study of God. In answering the question, “Why should we study theology?” this article will provide five compelling reasons to commit to theological studies in today’s world. My hope is that by the end of this article, you will have a better understanding of why theology is essential for the Christian and find yourself eager to engage in diligent pursuit of it.
The first reason—and arguably the most important reason—to study theology is that theology should be a way to experience the Word in the mind, heart, and life of the believer. It should never be merely an academic pursuit of knowledge about God, but rather a pursuit of knowledge whereby the average Christian in the pew seeks to understand the Christian faith and all that is in Scripture so that it changes his life, raises his affections for Christ, and promotes personal holiness. Any study of theology that does not accomplish these things, at least in part, is not a true study of theology but rather an intellectual activity void of any true meaning.
The Christian should open their Bible with the expectation that it molds, shapes, and changes them, conforming them in greater measure into the image of Christ as they learn and apply the Scriptures to their lives. Dr. Martyn Lloyd Jones once said, “If our so-called faith does not lead to any kind of experience, then I doubt whether it is Christian at all. Our faith must be living, real, and experimental.” We must approach theological studies with the same attitude. It must be living, real, and experimental. Learning theology should cause you to encounter the living God through His Word, over and over, to such a degree that your love for God, the church, fellow man, and Christ grows exponentially.
Second, Christians should study theology to understand God’s nature and character. If we want to know the God we call Heavenly Father, who adopted us into His family, then we need to learn His character and nature. The Bible is the only place to learn about who God is as He has revealed Himself to us.
For instance, how do we know that God is compassionate, loving, and just? We read in Exodus 34:6–7, where Moses meets with the Lord to replace the Ten Commandments, “Then the LORD passed by in front of him and proclaimed, ‘The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression, and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations.’”
We know God is compassionate, loving, and just because that is what Scripture teaches us about God. Coming to learn these things about God through theological study should have an impact on the life of a Christian because now you know that when you pray to God, you can know with certainty that you are praying to a compassionate and just God.
The Bible is filled with God’s attributes and teaches us much about who God is, which should make us want to study theology.
Third, studying theology helps us delight in the Person and Work of God. Again, theology is not all about head knowledge, though it can never be less than that. It is about coming to know God and His works of creation in such a way that you find yourself in awe of such an incredible God.
We read in Psalm 19:1, “The heavens are telling of the glory of God, and their expanse is declaring the work of His hands.” A true study of theology should cause us to consider who God is and what He has created, causing us to cry out as King David did in 2 Samuel, saying, “For this reason, You are great, O Lord God; for there is none like You, and there is no God besides You, according to all that we have heard with our ears.”
The more we learn about who God is and what He has done, the easier it is to recognize who we are in relation to who He is and live accordingly. If we are to have a deep affection for God, we must come to know Him truly.
Fourth, studying theology uncovers God’s plan for mankind. The only way to truly understand man is to hear what God has to say about him. For instance, Genesis tells us about the relationship we were meant to have, and the proto-evangelium in Genesis reveals God’s solution to man’s sin problem. The Apostle Paul helps us understand human depravity and the wickedness of Sin, and then we see God’s love and plan for redemption in the person and work of Christ. And in Revelation, we see the return of Christ, his response to mankind, and man’s final dwelling place with God.
From Genesis to Revelation, we get a full understanding of who mankind is in relationship to God as far as God has been pleased to reveal it. We see whom we were created to be and what God has done to deal with the issue of sin. We learn what the natural state of the heart is due to total depravity, and we learn what it means that we are given a new heart.
We study theology so that we have God’s view on the heart and purpose of man before and after the fall and for eternity.
Lastly, the Christian should study theology to love and serve Christ as Lord and Savior faithfully. So few people truly know much about Jesus’s character and nature. We profess to love Christ, but do we really know Him? Many professing Christians know some details about Jesus. They know He was compassionate, they know He healed the sick, they know that He died for our salvation, but many professing believers couldn’t tell you what John means in 1 John 2:2 when he says of Christ, “And He is the propitiation for our sins.” They couldn’t tell you about Christ’s deity, His oneness with the Father, or talk to you about the fact that He is, in fact, God: the second person of the Trinity.
These aren’t just facts about Jesus; this is who He is as a person. Many believers know so little about the One they call Savior. Jesus was truly man and he was also truly God. These doctrines matter because if you serve a Jesus who was a man and not God, then you serve a different Jesus than the Jesus of the Bible. If you serve a Jesus who was God and not man, then you serve a different Jesus than the Jesus of the Bible. Every heresy known ultimately touches the person and work of Christ.
If we are to love Christ truly, then we must know Him, understand who He was and is, what He believes about sin and salvation, what He expects from those who follow Him, and how He views those who call Him Lord and Savior. The only place to learn these things is in the pages of Scripture.
There are things that prove we truly belong to Him—do we know what those things are? One of the most terrifying verses in the Bible demonstrates that there will be many who thought they knew Jesus when in fact, they did not. Jesus Himself says, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is heaven will enter” (Matt 7:21). Do we understand how that could be? What did Jesus expect from them that they didn’t have? We study theology so that we may truly know Christ and what it means to be His disciple.
We also study theology so that we have such a view of Christ that when considering how majestic, loving, and full of grace He is, we can’t help but worship because we understand what it means that He is majestic, loving, and full of grace.
We study theology so that we can say with the Apostle Paul, “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom 8:38–39).
At the end of the day, all of our learning of theology must cause us to look to Christ. If it doesn’t, then it is because our hearts are cold and we haven’t really learned anything at all. A true student of theology will become the greatest lover of Christ. John Calvin said, “All theology, when separated from Christ, is not only vain and confused but is also mad, deceitful and spurious.”
The faithful Christian must study theology, but as we study, we should be sure that we allow it to conform us to the image of Christ, that we not only have theology as head knowledge but that it becomes heart knowledge, which changes us.